- Beth needs to update her resume, but removing the waxy yellow build-up on her kitchen floor seems vastly more appealing.
- Rico has been trying to summon the courage to discuss a raise with his boss, but he keeps putting it off.
- Carolyn wants to clean up her personal files, but re-runs of L.A. Law beckon her to the television.
- Matt can’t get motivated to tackle a big project due in March. It’s a new challenge and promises high visibility, yet he sits at his desk counting paper clips.
Beth, Rico, Carolyn, and Matt are frustrated, and they berate themselves for lack of action. What to do? Read on for the unglamorous, but foolproof, solution.
The Solution—Baby Steps!
When facing a big or unpleasant task, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I need/want to do?
- What gets in the way (obstacles—mental, physical, etc.)?
- What are tiny pieces of action I could take? Be sure your steps are so small that they’re do-able, even immediately do-able.
a. What are the smallest units of work I could do? (For example, look a number online.)
b. What’s the smallest amount of time I could manage easily (“I’ll work on this for three minutes.”)
- How can I garner support, mobilize myself, or make myself accountable to someone else for these very small steps? (For example, make a chart, check off items on a list, make a promise to a friend, link a few steps to an enjoyable activity.)
- Take your baby steps, one at a time.
- Debrief: What worked? What didn’t work? What have I learned? Then celebrate!
The Baby-Step Strategy Applied
Obstacle: Beth is unsure how to handle a gap in her employment history.
Potential baby steps: (1) Find her resume. (2) Read it. (3) Write down all her questions. (4) Think of resources (websites, articles, people) that could help her handle this obstacle. (5) Contact resources. (6) Give herself a deadline for an updated draft. (7) Review and edit the draft.
Obstacle: Rico doesn’t know how to bring the subject up to his boss. He lacks a clear rationale and worries that his boss may say no.
Potential baby steps: (1) List his contributions, how he’s helped his department make or save money. (2) Find comparable salaries inside and outside his company. (3) List two people he could ask for advice. (4) Look for three articles about the subject. (5) Make notes and “rehearse” asking to meet. (6) Develop a plan in case his boss says no, e.g., ask what he would need to do to be eligible for a raise.
Carolyn’s Personal Files
Obstacle: Carolyn doesn’t know where to begin cleaning up her files.
Potential baby steps: (1) Scan files to see what’s there—one drawer at a time. (2) List what’s working, what’s not about her system. (3) Find tips from books, websites, or people. (4) Purge outdated, or duplicate contents at the rate of one file a day. (5) Ask friends about systems they use.
Obstacle: Matt has no formal experience leading a team.
Potential baby steps: (1) Identify experienced colleagues he could use for “sounding boards” during the project. (2) List all of the component tasks he can think of. (3) Look up phone numbers and email addresses of others on the team. (4) Gather file folders. (5) List what he doesn’t know how to do. (6) Think of someone who does. (7) Ask the questions that he’s listed. (8) Create a timeline based on this information.
The key to the baby-step strategy is to find the smallest unit of action that you can do effortlessly. Don’t let embarrassment about the size of your steps stop you. Remember, small steps always beat no steps. Your first steps create momentum and confidence. Get moving, however small your steps!
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the contact form on my website.